Despite Rare Earths first being discovered in 1787, relatively little is still known about these elements. Rare Earth metals and elements are known for their unique properties which are not still fully understood. Many research institutions around the world, both academic and industrial, are focusing substantial resources on understanding the unique properties of these elements and metals which are expected to drive future technological growth.
Today, they exist in many different forms in technologies we use on a daily and frequent basis. For example, laptops would not exist without rare earths, neither would today’s modern televisions, cell phones, and many of the appliances we take for granted.
Huge resources are now being spent on the research and development of new technologies in this area. Some of the sectors of technology that research is currently being done in include, Quantum Physics and Quantum Computing, Automotive & Electric mobility, Lasers, Medicines, Agriculture, Sustainable renewable technologies, Cryogenics & Cryophysics, Super conductors and Advanced Materials.
Rare earths are used in a lot of the technologies above already, however as their properties begin to be better understood, new applications and uses will emerge.
The US President has stated publicly in the past 12 months that the US Energy sector is dependent on rare earths. This is because renewable and clean energy technologies rely on rare earths to be able to work.
The rapid growth of new technologies in the energy and transport sectors will continue to drive up demand for rare earths. The need for rare earths, in particular, is likely to rise disproportionately by 2030. In a recent report carried out by the Öko-Institut in cooperation with Daimler AG, Umicore and TU Clausthal supported by the German Environment Ministry (BMU) who identified 12 metals that are particularly important in the manufacture of electric vehicles. The Öko-Institut concludes that “more environmentally sound mining, recycling, substitution, and efficient production and use of critical metals will be an on-going issue for German research and technology.